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The Also Rans – Selma (2014) — Best Picture Nominee

Selma poster.jpgDirected by Ava Duvernay

Screenplay by Paul Webb

Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey and more stars than there are in heaven

Selma is an important movie.  If you didn’t know it going in, you figured it right quick, and kept figuring it, because instead of being the joke fest you imagined[1], they play it straight as the soberest teetotaler.  Which is a seriously wasted opportunity because, if you ask me, the jokes practically write themselves.  All you have to do is turn on the spigot and here they come.

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The Best Picture Project — Birdman (2014)

Birdman poster.jpgDirected by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Screenplay by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bó

Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts

In the first half of the 2010s, the Academy the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did an abrupt about face.  For most of the previous decade they’d operated as a body that preferred to give Oscars to faux-important films, e.g. Crash (2005) and The King’s Speech (2010), over truly resonant and moving work, e.g. Brokeback Mountain (2005) and The Social Network.  Then, all at once, AMPAS turned into a group that essentially rewarded itself, giving Oscars to films that threw big, fat self-congratulating kisses on the movie industry and acting in general.

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The Best Picture Project — The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The Life of Emile Zola poster.jpg

Directed by William Dieterle

Screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine; Story and Screenplay by Heinz Herald and Geza Herczeg; based upon the book by Matthew Josephson

Starring Paul Muni, Gloria Holden, Gale Sondergaard and Joseph Schildkraut

The Life of Emile Zola is really two movies in one.

The first is a 25 minute seminar of a film, focusing on the professional life of writer Emile Zola.  It begins with him dirt poor in Paris, proceeds through a whirlwind medley of his greatest hits – books are published, a wife is married, fame is gotten – then settles with him into state of retirement and living off his wealth. Continue reading

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